Starting Over Again
" WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU'RE LEAVING!!!"
Duo winced and pulled the phone away from his ear as his manager shrieked. On the screen, he hid a grin as he watched her turn three shades of red. After a second, he put the reciever back and tried to calm her down.
" Michelle - it's just for a week or so. I don't have anything drastically important do I? And when's the last time you let me have time off?"
" Duo Maxwell, you have a concert rehearsal for next week, two interviews with Entertainment Weekly and Rock On Magazine respectively, public appearances to make..." Michelle snorted through the phone, shaking her finger at the unrepentant Duo. " I get it - you're deliberately trying to make my life difficult. What did I ever do to you?"
Duo laughed. " 'Chelle, when's the last time YOU had a vacation? You need one badly. Listen. cancel the rehearsal - I know my stuff and you know I know my stuff. It's a moot point. Reschedule the interviews and public appearances - they weren't for charity so it's not hard to do later, right?"
" I guess."
" Good girl. I'm leaving tomorrow - I'll phone you from Quatre's to give you the number there--"
" Give it to me now."
" Oh no!" Duo shook his head at the frazzled girl on the screen. " Then you'll hound me from start to finish. I'll call you when I get there. And after you reschdeule my scheduel--" he grinned, "-- book yourself a trip or something - RELAX! Got it? That's an order from your favorite client!"
" That's a claim that's very very slim right now."
" You love me," Duo chuckled. " Bye Michelle."
" Damn you Du--"
Duo hung up in mid-squawk. Rosita bustled into his living room giving him a soft but stern look.
" Mr Maxwell, you shouldn't tease poor Michelle like that - she works very hard."
" I know she does Rosie - that's why I want her to take some vacation time too." Duo scowled at the housekeeper. " When are going to stop calling me Mr. Maxwell and start callingme Duo?"
Rosita shook her head as she always did and then pointed in the direction of his bedroom.
" I took the liberty of packing your things for your trip. And your mail was delivered."
Mail was interesting. His private address was never revealed in public of course, so the bulk of it was sent to Michelle's office where her employees, affectionately dubbed by Duo as Chelle's worker bees, sorted through it, discarding junk and then sending the interesting-looking stuff to Duo's home, again via Michelle. Duo was profoundly grateful to his manager who understood the elusive rockstars need for solitude and took it upon herself to keep him happy. Duo scowled at the pile of mail Rosita had indicated in the hallway and decided to ignore it.
He smiled as Rosita left the room to continue her work, and wandered up to the photo above his TV. Again. He looked at the cheerful, younger faces of his past and swallowed thickly. _Time to go. Don't chicken out Maxwell_.
Peace was a funny thing. Heero had dreamed about it throughout the entire duration of the war. It had been his goal, his ultimate mission - to achieve the peace so desperatley wanted by the people of earth and the people of the colonies. He had been the Perfect Soldier. Mission failure was not acceptable. When the war ended, Heero had felt a surge of profound satisfaction for awhile. But no euphoria lasts forever and soon Heero had felt his unease grow in its place. He was the Perfect Soldier. Bred for war. What use was there for the Perfect Soldier during peace time? He had no purpose, no direction. The night of Relena's victory party, he had felt the whole wrongness of his existence and wandered outside to think. He momentarily thought of Duo, wondering what the braided pilot would do with his life. Duo Maxwell was the epitomy of life - cheerful, energetic, the first to help someone in need and always on the lookout for the next adventure. Heero had often thought about the Shinigami pilot, wondering why Duo had always seemed glad to be his partner, wondered why he worked so hard to break through Heeros thick shell he'd built around himself. But break it did, and Heero had begun to depend on Duo to regain his sens of humanity that had been taken years ago by a man named Odin Lowe, and a scientist codenamed Doctor J. Duo made him feel human. Heero liked feeling human - it was a new experience, just being allowed to FEEL. He was glad that his emtions hadn't been trained out of him, just deeply buried. He owed Duo for that. He wanted.....what did he want?
Heero shrugged and looked up at the sky, noticing not for the first time, the stars above, diamonds inlaid in a velevety blue-black sky. They had a calming affect on the Perfect--well, not so perfect anymore, neh? Heero smiled to himself.
" Hey, uh..Heero?"
Heero jolted at the familiar voice and a warm feeling spread throughout. He turned and saw Duo coming towards him.
" Hmm?" Typical response. Inwardly, Heero mentally smacked himself. Then he saw the serious look on Duo's face and his interest was piqued.
" I was wondering if you..if you uh, had any plans now," Duo blurted out. Heero narrowed his eyes for a second. Plans. For what? For life? What kind of life could he possibly have? Heero felt a familiar pain, leftover from his childhood, joke of it that it was, at the thought him living in a time he wasn't meant to. He'd never meant to survive the war.
" Plans..." Heero looked away. He wasn't supposed to have plans for after the war. _And it's all Duo's fault_, he thought mildly. _He made me feel like living when I should have self-destructed_... But the Shingami pilot wasn't through. Heero looked back up at Duo as the braided pilot nervously twisted his hands together.
" 'Cause if ya don't, y'know, I've got some plans of my own...and I was kinda wonderin'....if you, uh...wanted to come with?"
Heero was struck dumb. Duo was asking him to come with him. Why? Didn't he know that he was supposed to and have a happy life, and Heero was supposed to find some other war to fight?
" You want me to come with you?"
The hard casing over Heero's emotions was cracking. Someone wanted him. Not for war. Not for fighting.
" Well, yeah man - you're my partner, my best friend!"
_Best friend_? Briefly, Heero remembered countless tugs on that long braid, trying to shut him up, punching him in the shoulder whenever the braided baka tried to spy on his missions, threatening to kill him at least once a day....._Best friend_?
" And I..."
Heero shook his head and stepped forward eagerly. this was more then what he'd hoped for. Duo considered him a friend, maybe even cared for him. Hope began to creep into the normally stoic pilot that maybe there was something out there for him afterall.
" And you what?"
Heero waited for Duo to finish speaking, noticing the blush on his partners face.
Heero blanched at the sudden shriek and started as Relena attached herself to him. Clinging to him tightly, she gazed up at him with a starry-eyed look that made Heero feel ill. Vaguely he wondered much pressure per square inch she was applying to his arms. He tried to peer around her but she neatly countered his attempts to look at Duo, forcing him to scowl at her.
" Isn't this wonderful Heero? The war is finally over! It's a brand new start for everyone! Including..." Relena trailed off before peeking up at him coquettishly. "....us."
Heero fought back his natural gag reflex. What WAS it with this woman? _How many times do I have to wave a gun in her face before she gets the message_? He opened his mouth to speak but Relena rode over him.
" Think of it Heero! Peace! And we can have it all...I can give you anything you want, anything you'll ever need! You'll never be lonely, never lack for anything......"
Heero tried to disentangle the Queen of the World but she refused to let go. _Give me anything I want? I don't want anything. Except_.... He tried to get around her again, when all of a sudden Relena leaned forwards and planted her lips against his. Heero froze, his mind going into shock. _What is she doing_? his mind demanded angrily. He put his hands on her shoulders and forcibly moved her back. He registered a faint hurt look on relena's face before she immediately hid it with a sickeningly sweet smile. About to yell at her, he was cut off again, this time by Duo.
" I should've known you'd have plans already, huh Heero?" Duo gave the two of them a weak smile. Heero stared at him in disbelief. _Plans? What plans_?
" You guys are perfect for each other. Guess I'll leave you two lovebirds alone, neh? Ja ne! "
_Perfect together_? Heero looked confused...until he felt Relena tugging on his arm again. Then clarity set in. Just in time to see Duo whirl around and run back the way he came. He took a step forward.
" Neh, Heero?" Relena pouted at him. " Let him go--"
" Would you let go of me?" Heero hissed angrily, shaking her off him. Relena stepped backwards, confusion in her eyes.
" Leave me alone." Heero pinned her down with his best death glare, something Duo had become immune to, but Relena had not. She eeped, and stood still. " I don't know how many times I have to threaten your life," he continued with a growl. " But I don't want you. I have never wanted you."
Relena made a gurgling sound in the back of her throat. " But...oh." Her smile came back tentatively. " You're doing it again, aren't you? You're trying to protect me--"
" From what?" Heero couldn't believe this. With a sigh, he prepared to go to battle again, this time using words instead of a mobile suit. " The war is over. There is nothing for me to protect you from except those dignitaries and politicians that huddle around. I am saying this for the last time: Relena Peacecraft. I do not love you. I do not want to return with you to Sank Kingdom. Are we clear?"
Relena had turned white, a mewling sound coming from her as she tried to ignore his harsh words. Then a lightning bolt went through her and her wide eyes narrowed to slits. Heero blinked.
" It's him, isn't it?" she murmered, staring at him in shock. " It's Duo. It's always been.....damn you." Her eyes flared. " He's NOTHING! A common gutter rat, a broken poor orphan. He's not even the right gender! He can give you nothing, he IS nothing."
Heero growled, deep in his throat as Relena pressed her attack. Her eyes went from cruel to sympathetic.
" I can forgive this Heero. War does things to people...makes them seek out comfort where they can find it." Relena shook her head. " That is forgiveable. Forget him, tell me you love ME--and I'll forget this." She held her hand out to him beseechingly.
Heero stared at her in disbelief. She expected him to want her after this - she was a viper in royal garb. His blue eyes hardened to flints of cold steel and he slapped her hand away.
" You can give me material possessions which I don't want," he said evenly. " But for you to think I could love someone as vicious and vindictive as you.....you're supposed to be the fighter for peace and equality. You're supposed to be above pettiness and prejudice. " Heero glared at her. " I should have shot you back on the docks all those years ago."
Eyes wide and face pale, Relena sank to her knees as his words hit home. " N-no...."
" Goodbye Relena." Heero turned and stalked off in the direction that Duo had went, leaving a weeping princess sitting in the dirt, her dreams shattered around her.
Heero flinched as he remembered that moment. Not a day went by that he didn't relive that day in agonizing clarity. Duo had been gone by the time he had finally made Relena see the light and he'd tried to track down the American. By the time he'd found Duo, the braided baka had become a star in his own right. Duo had jumped from city to city, country to country, promoting his own career. Heero shook his head. Who'dve thought Duo could sing? And model too - Heero remembered seeing Duo on a billboard for the first time. He'd been amazed at the sight - Duo looked good. Very good. Heero smiled. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the ticket Quatre had sent.
He actually hadn't been surprised that the Winner heir had tracked him down - money could accomplish miracles. The blond Arab had been very persuasive in trying to convince him to come. In the end, he had played his trump card.
" Duo's coming?"
At Quatre's confirmation, Heero had felt his heart triphammer at the thought of seeing Duo in person for the first time in over two years.
Walking up to the gate, he handed his ticket to the lady collecting them and made his way to the first class portion of the plane. An attendant brought him a pillow and he politely declined a magazine. He listened to the rumbling of the engines as they fired up and he splayed the fingers of one hand across the window, watching the stars begin to peep shyly out from behind the sunset. He'd be at Quatre's in a few hours, and tomorrow Duo would arrive. Heero felt the anticipation built and he clenched his fingers. _Soon_.